In order to do that, the Chinese wrestler has to defeat a Muay Thai legend, who has had nothing but flawless performances inside the cage.
The surging 21-year-old is scheduled to face multi-time Lumpinee Stadium Muay Thai World Champion Sagetdao “Deadly Star” Petpayathai (3-0) at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar, on Friday, 29 June.
“I hope to have an exciting performance,” Ma says. “It will surely bring me more confidence if I win, and I will train and work even harder. I think it will send a message to those who underestimate me, and do not see me as their future opponent.”
Lately, “Cannon” has put on exciting and dominant displays for audiences around the world. Following his loss to Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev in May 2016, Ma made some major changes and improvements to set himself up for success.
First, he dropped from lightweight to featherweight, which is a more suitable division for him. He also reined in his reckless approach to bouts. He now exercises more patience, and makes the effort to concentrate more on his bout preparations and strategy.
Those changes turned out to be incredibly beneficial, as it led the Chinese national wrestling silver medalist to three consecutive stoppage victories. Most recently, he submitted Pakistan’s Ahmed “The Wolverine” Mujtaba via rear-naked choke, in the second round of their March encounter.
Though Ma was taken by surprise and had to weather an early storm from his opponent, he was able to take over and dominate the contest from the middle of the first frame, until he secured the submission.
It was yet another lesson to take away from his experiences in the ONE cage to make him a better martial artist when he returns.
“I did not think too much about strategy, because I knew my skills were better than Ahmed’s,” the grappler explains. “I accepted that victory with a humble heart. I will keep training hard, and prepare for my next victory.”
Getting that next victory will not be easy, however, as he has been tasked with his most challenging opponent to date.
Sagetdao is one of the most decorated competitors in the history of Muay Thai. The 31-year-old has captured a dozen titles, including a WPMF World Lightweight Championship, a Rajadamnern Stadium World Championship, and four Lumpinee Stadium World Championships in multiple weight classes.
In 2017, the Singapore-based Thai has seamlessly transitioned his world-class striking expertise into mixed martial arts competition, and has achieved incredible results in a short amount of time.
He defeated three opponents inside the first round – all by knockout – to cap a stellar debut year. All of that earned him the distinction of becoming ONE Championship’s Breakthrough Star of 2017.
While Ma respects the caliber of his adversary’s striking, he is eager to test out the Evolve MMA representative’s grappling ability.
“Sagetdao is a very experienced fighter,” Ma says. “He has so much experience in Muay Thai, so his weakness might be that he is not used to the mixed martial arts environment yet – both physically and mentally.
“Since he was a Muay Thai fighter, his ground game might not be so skilled and adept, but that does not actually matter. The important thing is how to combine his movements and skills smoothly together.”
Ma has proven he is capable of blending every aspect of mixed martial arts, and emerged as one of the most talented members of ONE’s featherweight roster.
If he is able to defeat a Muay Thai legend like Sagetdao at ONE: SPIRIT OF A WARRIOR, he could very well find himself entering the World Title picture.
Yangon | 29 June | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast